Variable habitat selection and movement patterns among Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi) populations in Saskatchewan
Keywords:Bullsnake, Pituophis catenifer sayi, grassland snakes, habitat selection, home range, space use, ecology
Pituophis catenifer sayi (Bullsnake) is a sparsely studied subspecies of conservation concern in Canada. Basic ecological information is lacking for P. c. sayi, which reaches its northern range limit in western Canada. To address this gap, we used radio-telemetry to examine space use and habitat selection in three populations of Bullsnakes in disjunct river valley systems (Frenchman, Big Muddy, and South Saskatchewan River Valleys) across their Saskatchewan range. Bullsnakes in two valleys used up to three times more space, travelled 2.5-times farther from overwintering sites, and had lower home range overlap than the third population. Landscape-level habitat selection was flexible, with snakes in all populations using both natural and human-modified habitats most frequently. Fine-scale habitat selection was also similar among populations, with Bullsnakes selecting sites within 1 m of refuges, regardless of whether they were natural or anthropogenic. Based on these results, Bullsnakes are flexible in their broad scale habitat use, as long as they are provided with fine scale refuge sites. The distribution of key seasonal resources appears to ultimately determine space use and habitat selection by Bullsnakes, regardless of the geographic location of the population.
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